U.S. court-martial delayed for Fort Hood shooting suspect

Reuters News

10/22/2012 9:26:25 PM - Reuters News

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The court-martial of Fort Hood massacre suspect Major Nidal Hasan was postponed indefinitely on Monday by the top appellate court in the U.S. armed forces.

Hasan, 42, is charged with 13 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting rampage at the U.S. Army post in Texas in November 2009. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, in a one-page order, said the court martial will be delayed indefinitely, "pending further review of the court."

The order came after Hasan's lawyers told the court they plan to appeal last week's ruling by the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals that the judge at Hasan's court martial may order him to shave his beard and that Hasan may be forcibly shaved if he refuses.

The delay is a victory for Hasan, who had requested and was refused a continuance of his court-martial in June. But since then, Hasan has grown a full beard, in violation of U.S. Army regulations, and the question of whether he can keep the beard is winding its way through the courts.

Hasan had argued that he grew the beard to show his Muslim faith and requiring him to shave it amounted to religious discrimination.

Monday's ruling is certain to push the start of the court martial past the third anniversary of the shooting on November 5.

"A speedy trial is definitely not what's taking place," said Kimberly Munley, one of 32 people wounded in the shooting spree.

"These delays have not allowed us to have any sort of closure whatsoever."

Munley and the others who were wounded in the incident, along with relatives of those who were killed, last week began an effort to get the Pentagon to declare the massacre an act of terrorism rather than an incident of workplace violence. Survivors say the change could help them get extra compensation and benefits.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Eric Beech)